On Practical Constructivism and Reasonableness

Dissertation, University of Oxford (2004)
The dissertation defends that the often-assumed link between constructivism and universalism builds on non-constructivist, perfectionist grounds. To this end, I argue that an exemplary form of universalist constructivism – i.e., O’Neill’s Kantian constructivism – can defend its universalist commitments against an influential particularist form of constructivism – i.e., political liberalism as advanced by Rawls, Macedo, and Larmore – only if it invokes a perfectionist view of the good. (En route, I show why political liberalism is a form of particularism and reconstruct the role of its conception of public justification, its implied contextualism about justified belief, its conceptions of toleration, neutrality, good reasons, and legitimacy, and, not least, its justification-constitutive conception of reasonableness.) Contrary to what is often assumed, then, at the level of a vindication of the very project of a universalist constructivism, universalist constructivists should construe perfectionists not as their opponents, but as partial, though uneasy, allies.
Keywords Political liberalism  Constructivism  Public justification  reasonableness  Rawls  Larmore  Macedo  O'Neill  Scope of liberalism  perfectionism
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